Christmas in Paris
Ahh… it’s Christmas romance time again. I have a real soft spot for holiday romances, and Christmas in Paris is a modern-day fairytale. Its best moments are achingly romantic and I would have loved sinking into this book if only the story were constructed a little more solidly.
American Isabel Lawson had planned the perfect Christmas wedding and honeymoon in Paris. And then she called it off with only days to spare. As readers will learn early on, there were doubts simmering beneath the surface for a while but the groom criticizing the wedding cake at a tasting was the straw that broke the camel’s back. So here is Isabel, off to spend a holiday at the Crillon in what should have been a suite for romantic couples.
She’s not the only single person in the Crillon’s honeymoon suites, as it turns out. When she locks herself out on her balcony, Alec, a French illustrator, comes to her rescue. It turns out that he is staying in the Crillon after his engagement went south as well. The two have fantastic chemistry together and I enjoyed their conversations. Instant rapport quickly starts developing into something warmer. Normally, I’d have my doubts about two people finding love together so soon after broken engagements but something about Isabel and Alec made me want to believe in the romance of their situation.
Paris at Christmastime didn’t hurt either. If you’re a reader who can’t stand designer name-dropping, this won’t be the book for you. However, the crazy shopping, holiday decorations and amazing experiences (including an actual ball!) added to the sweetly romantic tone of the story. Though we get frequent references to Isabel’s long hours working in finance back home in Philadelphia, her trip to Paris quickly turns into one of those delicious moments out of time where the rest of the world feels like it’s on hold somehow. Try not to daydream about having some of that!
Most of the time I really did enjoy this book, but there were a few quirks that irritated me. The major one had to do with story structure. I can understand using a flashback or two to show readers important pieces of characters’ pasts. However, the overuse and abuse of flashbacks in this novel makes the plot a little hard to follow at times as we jump around through what seems like Isabel and Alec’s entire romantic histories. If Hughes had stripped out some of the flashbacks, the book would be a lot shorter but it would have been a really fantastic novella.
And then there’s the big dark secret. Isabel and Alec reach a point where they clearly have more than friendship in mind and they have started to trust each other. However, Alec just can’t bear to tell Isabel about his family, important decisions he needs to make and well, a lot of the real, life-affecting things one would expect a person to confide in a partner. So much of the tension in the story arises from Alec keeping himself way too walled off for entirely too long and I have to admit that I got a little fed up with him at times.
Still, even with those quibbles, I really did enjoy the fairytale quality of Christmas in Paris. Sometimes it’s fun and refreshing to just step into a fantasy version of life and frankly, being swept off one’s feet and having a remarkably glamorous holiday in Paris is romantic indeed.